Weird wannabe: Rahul Gandhi’s journey from all-night party to daylight nautanki
by Sandhya Jain on 07 Feb 2010 21 Comments

For someone who remembers that Rahul Gandhi’s spontaneous response to Mumbai 2008 was to party all night in honour of the forthcoming nuptials of his pal Samir Sharma, the aam aadmi bonhomie his inner circle contrived in the city on Friday, cut little ice.


Political observers like your writer concluded, correctly, that the fact that Congress’s PM-in-waiting felt it was perfectly moral to live it up at a night-long farmhouse party – where other guests were privately shocked at his very presence – meant that the ruling UPA intended to take the worst-ever Pakistan-sponsored fidayeen attack on the country’s commercial capital in its stride.


The conclusion was confirmed when Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Vadra, attended the wedding of the son of their crony, former union minister Satish Sharma, a few days later.


If India’s most arrogant political family, which dominates the ruling coalition at the Centre, does not think it fitting to avoid private revelry in the immediate aftermath of a commando assault from the sea, which left 195 persons dead and took over 60 hours to subdue, Islamabad can hardly be blamed for treating New Delhi with contempt. That is why once Uncle Sam forced Union Home Minister Pakistan Chidambaram to agree to resume dialogue, Islamabad rubbed his nose in dirt by postponing the SAARC meet!


News reports at the time of Mumbai 2008 suggest that the ‘sangeet’ party, which took place barely three days after the three-day slaughter at Taj, Trident, Shivaji Terminus and Chabad House, saw the Congress princeling partying hard till 5 in the morning. After all, his childhood buddy and US-based furniture designer, Samir Sharma, was getting married. The venue was a sprawling farmhouse at Radhey Mohan Chowk, beyond Chhatarpur, a haven of those who lead charmed lives.

So rarefied is the atmosphere in these circles that Rahul Gandhi was unaware that the rest of the nation was busy cancelling scheduled celebrations, even weddings. So while the kith and kin of 195 dead (and scores injured), either mourned for their dear dead, or cared for their wounded survivors, the Congress party’s PM-in-waiting rejoiced with 800-odd Page 3 types at an extravaganza hosted by Leena Musafir, sister of Samir’s bride-to-be.




Although Sonia Gandhi has made it an unwavering practice to accompany the Prime Minister or Home Minister to every tragedy-struck spot and grab media space, and hence flew with the Prime Minister to Mumbai as well, I am not aware if the Amethi MP ever visited the city to meet the families of the heroes or victims of that commando assault on the city.


Rahul’s current visit to Mumbai comes on the heels of Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s controversial visit to Azamgarh, UP, where he met the families of alleged terrorists and cast aspersions over the facts of the Batla House encounter in Delhi, in which Inspector MC Sharma lost his life. I mention this because Uttar Pradesh, like Bihar and Tamil Nadu, is a state from which citizens migrate to Mumbai in quest of a livelihood.


And if there is one thing common to the states whose sons and daughters run to Mumbai for a living – it is that in all these states, the polity, regardless of the party in power, has been Muslim-appeasing (what is called secular). This means there is a connection between Muslim-appeasing politics and lack of development, which triggers outward migration to states where private enterprise ensures the means to survival, even if poor governance is unable to ensure a modicum of facilities for dignified living; hence Mumbai’s world famous Dharavi and other slums.




Indian citizens who come to Mumbai because the constitution gives them the unfettered right to live and work anywhere in the country, must remember that it is the lack of opportunities in their home states that has driven them to this metropolis. Certainly their own hard work and enterprise add to its allure, but the ‘equal rights’ of the new citizens of the city cannot legitimately negate the ‘equal rights’ and respect of native residents.


If Mumbai is not to suffer a slip disc, someone will have to glue together the vertebrae of two sections of its citizenry, with empathy and compassion.


This cannot be done by a covertly contrived commingling with commuters in a suburban train during a four-hour visit; it needs political sagacity and will. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray is not wrong to mock Rahul Gandhi’s made-to-look-spontaneous visit to a local ATM; he cleverly lambasted the Centre for using Mumbai as a source of Any Time Money.


Rahul’s security arrangements were competent – as indeed they should be – but as the Sena leader pointed out, similar security for the common man would rule out terrorist attacks altogether. Who can argue with that?


It was a mistake by Rahul’s inner circle of advisers, who rustled up a fairly cute drama to thumb their noses at the Sena threat of black flags, to not inform the chief minister of their plans. By forcing Ashok Chavan to wait under a tree for two long hours to receive the princeling, they made a mockery of the dignity of the Chief Minister’s office. Nor were they vigilant enough to stop the Minister of State for Home from picking up Rahul’s shoes, probably to ensure no one stole them as a souvenir – though he clarified that he took charge of them because they were too close to the pedestal of Dr Ambedkar’s statue! Quick thinking, that!


Uddhav Thackeray may be wrong in sniffing a conspiracy to detach Mumbai from Maharashtra. But this cannot be dismissed out of hand as such a move could serve the Western objective of fully integrating India with the global (read US-controlled) economy, making money extraction from the Indian market easier, and eroding the current safeguards that saved the Indian middle class in the American economic meltdown. Hence we need to be on guard against any sudden and sinister move by a regime that takes telephonic instructions from New York or Washington DC.


Meanwhile, no one is being bashed up in the streets of Mumbai. And anyway, the local elements that have made Mumbai unsafe – in 1993, in 2008 – belong to the community that is being heavily appeased by our political class, and no one is doing anything about it.


Uddhav Thackeray’s overtures to cousin Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are timely. Both should rapidly bury the past and make up among themselves, and with the BJP – Hindus need Ram and Shyam on the same side. Raj would by now have realised that Congress is an unworthy ally – having used him efficiently to scuttle the SS-BJP victory in the assembly elections, it is now preparing to sacrifice him in quest of victory in distant Patna. Uddhav on his part must realise that Raj has political value, and must be given his due.


BJP on its part must realise that it cannot afford to lose Bihar to an assertive Congress, and make necessary adjustments. The party foolishly lost Haryana on account of the arrogance (and wheeling dealing) of some so-called national leaders, but the new president Nitin Gadkari must know that he cannot afford failure at any price. Forming the government in Jharkhand was wise; sending two chief ministers to grace the swearing-in ceremony after Delhi-based prima donnas created tantrums was intelligent; now staying the course with allies who are maintaining loyalty is the need of the hour.


Once his formal anointment is over later this month, Gadkari would do well to ask the Senas to join hands against moves to bring reservations for Muslims and Christians, as suggested by the Ranganath Mishra Commission. 




As for actor Shahrukh Khan, he was right to go along with the concerted IPL-3 boycott of Pakistani players, in solidarity with Mumbai’s suffering in 2008. It would be interesting to know if someone in Delhi inspired him to publicly lament the non-inclusion of Pakistani players. Bleeding heart Chidambaram is an obvious suspect, though there would doubtless be other candidates for this honour.


The surprise is that Shahbana Azmi and Emraan Khan (of ‘I can’t buy a house because I am a Muslim’ fame) kept silent. They did not speak for Pakistan or even for poor Khan. Regardless of whether My name is Khan is finally released in Mumbai or not, Shahrukh like colleague Imran Khan, will get the message – Hell hath no Fury like a Hindu in Rage – and will henceforth tone down his assertion of an overtly Muslim identity.


That will leave Shiv Sena free to tackle the overtly ill-mannered Australian cricket players.




As for Rahul baba, he already knows Mumbai is the easiest city in which to prove that all Indians have an equal right to work and play in.


The real test of this doctrine is in Muslim majority Kashmir, where the Hindu community of his great-grandfather became further victim to that gentleman’s faulty politics and flawed political understanding, and was forced out of home and hearth two decades ago.


Let Rahul march to abolish Article 370, to rehabilitate displaced Kashmiri Hindus in the State, to settle the 3 million Af-Pakistan tormented Sikhs there, and to enable citizens like us to own cottages near the Dal Lake.


That is a mission that would truly show his mettle.


The writer is Editor,

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